Palestinian arrested for waving Yemeni flag at football match against Saudi Arabia

The Palestinian Authority arrested a football fan for protesting the war in Yemen during last week’s dual World Cup-Asian Cup qualifier between Saudi Arabia and Palestine in Ramallah.

Ahmad Al-Yumni, a 24-year-old construction worker from Hebron, was detained for raising a Yemeni flag, scrawled with the slogan “From Palestine, here is Yemen, during the football match.

The game was a part of the first official Saudi Arabia visit to the West Bank since Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The event held on 15 October at Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in the occupied West bank was a qualifying match for the World Cup 2022 and the Asia Cup 2023. It ended in a 0-0 draw.

“My family was not able to see him, know about the details of his detention or where he was detained until a day later,” Yumni’s brother, Kayed, told Middle East Eye.

Kayed said security services told the family Yumni would be freed in exchange for 1,000 Jordanian dinars (USD$1,410). Kayed added his brother was released from Israeli prisons last year after being detained for two years.

According to the UN, at least 7,025 civilians have been killed in the Yemen War since March 2015. About 65 per cent of these deaths have been linked to Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

The Saudi Arabia visit has been criticised for increasing normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In 2015, the Saudi Football Federation refused to participate in a game against Palestine to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.

The move was meant to comply with the Arab League’s boycott of Israel. But the recent visit shows Saudi Arabia abandoning Arab measures to boycott Israel amid warming diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia supports President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century for Israeli-Palestinian peace, despite wide rejection from Palestinian political organisations who consider the plan biased in favour of Israel.

While PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the arrival of the Saudi delegation is a pleasure for the Palestinian people, the majority of Palestinians disagreed with this sentiment. Palestinian activists condemned the visit as a form of sports-washing. And the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement said that while the visit doesn’t technically qualify as direct normalisation by their standards, the organisation can only regard it in the context of normalisation, given the team’s past rejection of a 2015 visit.

In the context of the dangerous official normalisation of the Saudi regime � along with the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and others � with Israel and the growing normal security and political relations between them, [the visit] is part of the attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause through the so-called Israeli-US deal of the century,” the statement read.

Source: Palestine Monitor